Some people get the opportunity to have something so significant in their life happen that changes them forever. I am one of those people. Today is a very special day for me. One of a few very special and significant days for me. I have only been celebrating this day for the past 7 years, but I will celebrate it for the rest of my life. Today is Birthmothers Day. Yes, I am a birthmother.
I know that most of you do know this about me, but there are some of you who don't know and this will come as a shock to you. I wanted to take this opportunity to write down my feelings and hopefully I can share some sort of insight to this topic.
For those of you who don't know...a birthmother is someone who has placed a baby for adoption.
When I was 18 I discovered that I was pregnant and was scared beyond imagination. For I knew that this news would crush my parents and many other loved ones. You see, I was not the "stereotypical" pregnant girl, and I soon found out that there is no such thing as a stereotype for that kind of situation. I was just a girl, who was in a serious relationship, who was not doing the right things. At times I felt trapped in that relationship and many times desperately wanted to get away from that situation, but emotionally, I couldn't.
I realized that I was pregnant the summer before I attended BYU-Idaho. I was so upset and disappointed in myself for allowing this to happen. It was just as much my fault as it was his. I kept wishing it to go away. I just wanted to be able to go off to college to start anew. I never told a sole what was happening inside my body during that time.
While at school, I made amazing friends (some of which will be my life-long friends), grew closer to my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ and tried figuring out who I was. I still never told anyone.
October 2001, I finally decided that I needed to tell the birthfather. I am not going to use his name because he doesn't know that I am writing this and I want to respect his privacy. I do however want you all to know that I do respect him as a man, and he was wonderful and very supportive through almost every situation that we had to deal with. Many times birthfathers get a bad rap, but I want to make sure that you know that I so appreciated his support. When I called him to tell him, he, of course, was upset and said some irrational things, but eventually we both realized that we would place this baby for adoption. We really didn't know anything about adoption, but we knew that it would be best for everyone at that time.
I went about the rest of the semester acting as if nothing was different. I never knew how far along I was and I hid it very well because of my body type and because I was in Rexburg, Idaho where it was freezing all the time.
When the semester was over and I returned to my home for Christmas and I was crushed. I knew that my parents had to find out sometime and I knew that that would be one of the hardest things that I ever did. I hated Christmas that year. I hated getting gifts because I didn't feel like I deserved them one bit. I hated talking about the next semester or seeing old friends. I knew that I was living a lie and that I needed to tell my parents. I mostly didn't want to hurt them. I just wished that I could go away and never come back. I wanted to tell them while I was there but couldn't. I went back to school and started a new semester knowing very well that it wouldn't last long. The night before my 19th birthday, I went in to talk to my church Bishop. I told him that I was pregnant and that I needed to go home. He told me to come back the day after my birthday and we would call my parents to tell them. Needless to say it was the worst birthday in my life. I didn't feel like I deserved anything. My mom sent me a birthday balloon bouquet and that just crushed me because I knew that I was about to break her heart.
The next day I went back into my Bishops office and there was a lady there from LDS Family Services. She talked to me and gave me some information about adoption. I still felt that that was the decision that I was going to make. Then came the time to call my parents. My heart breaks just thinking about that moment. My mom answered the phone and I asked if she would go somewhere where we could talk. She did and I just started crying and I told her that I had made some big mistakes. She just said..."are you pregnant?" I just cried and said yes. I don't really remember a whole lot of the conversation after that. I just remember physically feeling that I was hurting my mom so much more than I ever imagined that I could. She felt betrayed, and rightfully so. Throughout high school, she was always the one fighting for me to be able to go out and hang out with my friends or my boyfriend. I most definitely betrayed her and our trust. After I hung up the phone, I talked a bit more with the case worker, and she then drove me to my apartment. I went inside, got my roommate and we went out to her car so that I could tell her. We just cried and hugged. I am so thankful for her friendship and that she was there for me at that time...Thank you Kristin...You mean more to me than you will ever know!
Later that night, my dad called. He was the one that I was scared about knowing. I knew that I would upset him and I was afraid that he would not want to have anything to do with me. I had never been so wrong in my life! I will never forget what he said to me. He said, "Heidi, we are feeling all sorts of emotions at this time...anger, hurt, sad, upset, betrayed...but MOST of all, I want you to know that I LOVE YOU and that WE are going to get through this together!" I just cried and cried hearing those words from my dad. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that time.
That following weekend, my parents came to pick me up from Idaho. It was very hard seeing them, but we cried, hugged and talked about what was going to happen from there. They wanted me to know that the decision on what to do with my baby would be up to me and that they would be there to support me no matter what.
When we arrived at home, facing my brothers and sisters who I know were also very hurt was very difficult. I was fully prepared for them to not want to have anything to do with me. And, although, they dealt with the situation in their own way, they eventually were very supportive and wonderful towards me. There also was a whirl-wind of decisions to make. We had known some friends who had gone through the same thing a few years before and sought their counsel. The girl had gone to Utah during her pregnancy and delivery to be able to get away from everything. We were trying to decide if that is what I was going to do. By no means did my parents "ship" me off. They let me make that decision on my own. We live in a very small town where everyone knows everyone else's business and we just felt that me going away for the time being would be the most beneficial for me to be able to make decisions for myself. Meanwhile, I went to my first doctors appointment to get a due date. I had an ultrasound and we discovered that I was 36 weeks pregnant. For those of you who don't know pregnancy talk, that is almost full term. I was not very knowledgeable about pregnancy, so I didn't realize what he was saying, so I asked what that meant and he said, "That means that you could deliver anytime!"
I think that I recall my mom saying that she almost fainted when she heard that.
I just thought..."Oh crap. Things are going to happen a lot faster than we thought they would."
After that appointment, we called my case worker in Utah to let her know that I was coming. She arranged for me to live with a family with two adopted boys. While home, I also spent a lot of time with our friends who had gone through the same thing. I also will keep their names private...just in case. :) But they know who they are. They also helped out me and my family through that time. They mean so much to me and are very special people in my life. It was during one of those visits that I knew that adoption was the best option for me, the birthfather and my baby.
We left that weekend to go to Provo, UT. I met my case worker, Monica, and my "foster" parents, Sharm and Susan. They instantly made us feel welcome and very loved. My parents stayed for a few days and then went back home. It was hard to leave them, but I knew that they had faith in me to make the right decisions. While I was in Utah, I had sessions with my counselor, I attended group sessions with other girls who were going through the same thing and I spent time with my new family. I also spent a lot of time going through profiles of hopeful couples who were wanting a baby.
Going through profiles is a lot harder than one would think. I had to pick the parents of my baby! It was one of the most important decisions that I would have to make! Thankfully I relied heavily on the Spirit to let me know which couple it would be. It is a process that is hard to explain. I would get files of couples and I would know right away if they weren't "the ones". A small piece of me would break knowing that they still weren't going to get a baby. I would look at all of these files of amazing couples who I knew wanted a baby so bad, but my baby wasn't their baby. I decided to hold onto the first file that Monica had given me. I really liked them, but wanted to see if there was another couple out there. My due date wasn't until February 21st, so I felt that I had a few weeks to make a decision. I would read the letters from the couples to the birthfather and he would help me go through them. Like I said, he was very supportive during everything.
February 10th, 2002 I started having contractions. But, being a first timer, didn't really know if they were the real ones. At the end of the day, they eventually got harder and closer together, so we knew that it was time. I was scared to death!! I called my mom and they got packed up to make that 12 hour drive again to be there with me. I also called the birthfather and he arranged a flight out that next morning. Susan was there with me every step of the way. She held my hand and caressed my hair showing her unconditional love and support for me. I couldn't have done it without her!
My beautiful angel was born on February 11th, 2002 at 3:38 am. She was 6 lbs 15 oz and was 19 1/2 inches long. She was tiny. I remember holding her for the first time knowing that my time was very limited with her. I knew that these next few days would be extremely difficult and precious all at the same time. I realized that I still hadn't made a final decision on a couple yet and wanted to wait to have my parents read their profile. I only slept a couple hours that morning while Susan held my gorgeous baby. I couldn't believe that she was here, and at the same time I couldn't help but know that she wasn't ALL mine. She was going to go to an amazing family. Later that day at about 11, my mom, dad, brother and two sisters came. It was very hard seeing my family fall in love with her. They loved holding her and seeing her. But, I knew that they were also heart broken knowing that she would not be coming home with us.
I let my parents read the profile letter and they also felt that it was a great choice. So, my mom and Susan went to buy a card so that we could let the couple know that they had been chosen.
You see, in normal cases, birthmothers chose a couple a few months before the baby arrives. They then spend time getting to know each other through letters or visits. This also allows time for the couple to get ready for their baby. Well, in our case it didn't happen that way. That day, they were called in to their case workers office and he placed a pink envelope in their hands.
They opened up the card that told them that I had chosen them to be the parents of my baby. They then looked again at it and realized that she had already been born. They told me later that they just cried knowing that their baby had finally come. I made a promise to myself that when I let the couple know that they were the "ones" that I would never go back on my decision to place her with them. I didn't want to crush them, for I knew that they had been hoping and praying for this day to come.
The next day, on February 12th, 2002, I met them for the very first time. I am also going to keep their names private. They don't know that I am writing this right now and I didn't get their permission first, even though I don't think they would care, I want to respect them just in case. I was so nervous, but so excited to meet them all at the same time. I had made the decision for them to be the parent's but I never had a confirmation from the spirit that they really were the right ones. I just felt that it was right all along. BUT, the second that I stepped into that room where they were, the Spirit was incredibly strong. I could not deny it. These two amazing people were in deed my little angels' new parents. She most definitely belonged to them and I knew with 100% conviction that I was making the right decision. We just cried and hugged each other. We then sat and just got to know each other better. I was able to visit with them by myself and then with my parents and then with the birthfather. It was all so wonderful to be able to just talk with them about me and about their lives. I so appreciated the love that they showed me during that time. I never once felt unloved from them. After a couple of hours we decided that the placement would take place that next afternoon. I also asked them what they wanted to name her and they were so polite to ask if I had a name picked out. I replied with "I gave her life; I want you to giver her a name." Then they told me that her name would be Alexandrea. I loved it.
That night I did not want to sleep. The nurses would come in to ask if they could take Alex so that I could sleep and I kept saying no. I kept thinking to myself that I could sleep for as long as I wanted to after this was all over, but until then, I didn't want to miss a moment of her life that I had with her. Earlier that night, we all wrote letters to her so that someday when she gets older, she could read them and know how much she is loved by us. It was very difficult to write that letter because there was so much that I wanted to say to her. Those letters got sealed in a manilla envelope and handed to her parents the next day. Someday I hope that she will cherish those letters.
I dreaded the next morning. I gave Alex a bath and put her in a cute little outfit so that she would be all ready to meet her new parents. The hours before the placement we took many pictures and just cried. Each member of my family got alone time with her. The birthfather and I also got a lot of alone time with her. This was incredibly difficult on him as well. The news came that they were there but they wanted me to know that I could have as much time as I needed with her. Those last moments with my sweet Alex were the hardest moments of my life. I just kept telling her that I loved her and that I was placing her with her mom and dad because I loved her so much. I wanted her to have the life that I couldn't give her. Most importantly, I wanted her to be sealed to her mommy and daddy for eternity. I couldn't provide that for her yet. I probably placed thousands of kisses on her precious little cheeks that day. It was so hard knowing that it was very possible that I wouldn't ever get to see her again. I just kept hoping that when she got older that she would want to meet me.
It was time. I remember that walk down the hall with my precious Alexandrea in my arms was the longest and hardest walk of my life. I knew that every step meant it was one step closer to leaving her behind. I knew that I didn't want to take up too much time after the placement because I wanted those moments that her new parents had with her to be special and sacred to them. When the door was opened, I fully expected Alex's mom to run to me with her arms open to receive Alex, but she didn't. They both threw their arms around me. They made me feel so loved. I then somehow got the strength to place Alex in her arms. It was an extremely bittersweet moment for me. I was so happy for them, but so heart broken inside. We took a few pictures and then said our goodbyes. I remember walking out of the door and just collapsing in my dad's arms. I literally felt like I was going to die. He helped me back into my room and just let me be for a little while. Even though I felt that way, I still knew that I had made the right decision.
Now, Alex is 7 years old. It is hard to think that it has been that long ago. I think back in amazement that I was able to get through that but at the same time knowing that I did not do it alone. I not only had the wonderful support of my family, the Smith's and my friends, but also the undeniable support and strength of my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. For I know that my Savior did not only atone for my sins, but also for my pain that I went through. I felt that strength come into my life day after day.
Time does heal. I know that it isn't what you want to hear while you are going through something like that, but it really does. Each day got easier and easier. I loved receiving photos and letters from them informing me of how well Alex was doing. Later, as she got older, I could see just how happy she was. Those were again tender mercies from the Lord letting me know that I had made the right decision. I stayed with the Smith's until May 2002 so that I could recover and heal through counseling. My counselor was amazing and I still keep in touch with her today. As I reflect back on that experience, I truly feel that the Lord placed each and every one of these individuals in my life for a reason. Each person at that time helped me go through this whole experience. I will never forget the Smith's or Monica for their kindness and love.
I also can't ever express my love for my family for their support. My parents were amazing and did everything right during this most difficult time. I knew that it was so hard for them to say goodbye to their 1st grandchild. Because of their love and support I am where I am today.
When Alex was 5, my mom and I were able to see her again. It was one of the BEST days of my life. I was planning a trip to Utah, and I just asked Alex's parents if they wanted to get together for dinner or something. (not ever intending on seeing Alex) They wrote back and said that they felt that it would be right for us all to meet up at a park to play with the kids! I couldn't believe it. I just cried knowing that I would get to see her again and hold her in my arms once more. Since Alex, they have had two other children. So, we planned on all meeting at a park for a couple of hours. It was the most wonderful day ever. I loved seeing them and spending time with them. My mom was also able to be there with me and get to experience it. There were many tears again, but mostly joyous tears. I wasn't sad at all actually. I was so thankful for the opportunity that they gave me to be able to see her again. Alex was so dang cute and I loved just talking to her. We took tons of pictures and video. We never once talked about me being her birth mom. We just enjoyed being together and we didn't want to confuse or upset her in any way. Later her parents told me that after our visit Alex's Grandma asked her if she knew who I was. She said "yes, she is my new big friend." Then she said, "no, wait...she is the girl who gave me to mom and dad!" When they told me that she said that, I couldn't believe it. I was amazed at how smart she was. We decided that we would definitely plan this again. I would love to post pictures of that day, but again, I want to be able to respect the privacy of their family and I don't want to post pictures of Alex without their permission...but I can assure you that she is DANG cute!! :)
Now, I am married to an amazing, supportive husband, who embraces my past whole heartedly. We have two beautiful children, a girl and a boy. They are such blessings in my life. Everyday I thank my Heavenly Father for blessing my life with them. Each pregnancy and birth of my children have been very special to me. I have cherished my pregnancies and deliveries knowing that they are "mine" and that I actually get to take them home so that I can be their mommy.
I am so grateful for the experience that I had. I know that I didn't make the best decisions in my life to get me to that point, but it happened and I have been changed forever because of it.
I, of course, am a HUGE advocate for adoption. I will defend adoption until I die and know that it is a huge blessing to the many lives that it affects. I would not be where I am today without that wonderful option.
So, like I said, today is Birthmother's Day. Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I get the privilege of celebrating both. Although Birthmother's Day isn't widely known about or celebrated, I know in my heart that there are millions of other women out there like me who didn't "give up" their child. They gave them MORE. One thing I do know for sure...Birthmother's NEVER forget. Jerrod once asked me if I really do think about Alex everyday. And, I do. I most definitely do. I will never ever forget that beautiful little angel who was sent to me to help change my life.